Biotech Updates

Scientists Release Preliminary Cacao Genome Sequence

September 16, 2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mars, Inc., and IBM have released to the public the preliminary cacao genome sequence three years ahead of schedule. This is a result of the combined efforts to enhance the cocoa growing process, to benefit the world's cocoa producers, and a more sustainable global cocoa supply. The genome sequence of cacao will be used by scientists and breeders to produce a more robust, better yielding, disease and drought resistant trees.

"Because of the talent and dedication brought together by this unique partnership, researchers and plant breeders will be able to accelerate the genetic improvement of the cacao crop now cultivated in tropical regions around the world," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS administrator. "This will benefit not only the chocolate industry, but also millions of small farmers who will be able to continue to make their living from cacao."

"As the global leader in cocoa science, we understand the importance of not only investing in this research, but making it publicly available for all to benefit," said Howard-Yana Shapiro, Ph.D., global staff officer of plant science and research at Mars Incorporated. "As a private company, Mars is in a unique position to drive and fund fundamental science that will support its long term focus and vision. Although it may not benefit the bottom line in the short term, in the long run, it will ensure mutually beneficial results for the company, cocoa farmers and tree crop production in key regions of the world."

Read USDA's press release at and Mars, Inc. at
. The genome sequence is available at